A Dutch Decoy Dog (Kooikerhondje)
On panel, 8⅛ x 8⅜ ins. (20.5 x 22 cm)
Private collection, The Netherlands, until 2006
Private collection, UK, 2006-2016
This painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné of Jan Baptist Weenix and Jan Weenix currently in preparation by Dr. Anke Van Wagenberg-Ter Hoeven.
Son of the Italianate painter Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660/61), Jan was born in Amsterdam in 1642. His formative years were spent in Utrecht, where he trained with his father and joined the local painters’ guild in 1664. Sometime in the following decade he returned to Amsterdam and settled there permanently. Like his father, Jan painted quite a variety of subjects, but unlike Jan Baptist, he did not make an artistic pilgrimage to Rome. Early in his career, Jan painted Italianate genre and harbour scenes inspired by those of his father. After moving to Amsterdam, he specialised in hunting scenes and elegant still lifes of dead game, but portraits and landscapes also formed part of his repertoire.
In this charming small painting, Weenix has depicted a Dutch decoy dog, or kooikerhondje, with a bell hanging round its neck. The friendly-looking creature has been captured in a lively pose, with its ears cocked and gaze directed towards the viewer, as if waiting for some word of command from its owner. One senses that this depiction is very likely an affectionate portrayal of a family pet, or at least an animal which the artist knew well.
The Dutch decoy dog, or kooikerhondje, was a spaniel-like breed of sporting dog. Originally developed in the sixteenth century for use as a decoy, it was trained to entice ducks to follow it into eendenkooien (duck traps), using its white plumed tail as a lure. When the hunting season was over, it was employed on the farm to catch vermin. Its friendly, biddable nature also made it a popular choice of family pet. The breed had all but died out by the mid-twentieth century, but Baroness van Hardenbroek van Ammserstol came to its rescue and began to breed it again. It is now officially recognised by the Raad van Beheer (Dutch Kennel Club) and its numbers are on the rise.
Kooikerhondjes feature frequently in paintings by seventeenth-century Dutch painters, especially those of Jan Steen. Dogs of this kind appear regularly in Weenix’s paintings, both in his genre and in his sporting scenes. A similar dog, for example, appears in his Landscape with a Shepherd Boy, dated 1664 (i), in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Jan Weenix was born in Amsterdam in 1642, the eldest son of the Italianate painter Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1660/61) and Josina de Hondecoeter. His early childhood was spent with his mother in Amsterdam, during which time his father made an extended trip to Italy. Jan Baptist returned to Amsterdam in 1647, and shortly afterwards the family moved to Utrecht. By 1657 the family had settled in a castle near Utrecht, the Huis ter Mey in the village of De Haar, where Jan was trained in his father’s studio. In 1664, some three or four years after his father’s death, Jan joined the Utrecht Guild of St. Luke. By 1677, he had returned to Amsterdam, where he became a citizen. He got married there in 1679. From around 1702, Weenix served as court painter to the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm, for whom he produced numerous game pieces, as well as a series of twelve enormous hunting scenes for Schloss Bensberg, a hunting lodge near Cologne (now in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich). Although Jan made regular visits to Düsseldorf to prepare his plans for decorations and supervise the installation of his works, he continued to reside in Amsterdam. He died there and was buried in the Nieuwezijds Kapel on 19 September 1719. Jan Weenix’s only recorded pupil was Dirk Valkenburg (1675-1721), who imitated him closely.
i Jan Weenix, Landscape with a Shepherd Boy, signed and dated 1664, on canvas, 81.6 x 99.6 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery.
1640/42 - Amsterdam - 1719
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